Only 55 miles of ocean separate Great Barrier Island from cosmopolitan Auckland, but given how little the two places have in common, the distance seems much greater. With fewer than 1,000 permanent residents, more than half of its land area administered by New Zealand's Department of Conservation, and fewer introduced species than elsewhere in the country, the island is in good shape ecologically and will likely remain so for a while.
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society
"The country's fourth largest island has only about 650 residents while nearly 2/3 of its land area is protected. The diverse coastal landscape is relatively unmodified and of outstanding aesthetic value. Tourism businesses are locally owned and limited in scale."
"The bays, beaches, bush, and coastal waters are spectacularly beautiful. A majority of residents are committed to environmental sustainability. The island does have issues—invasive pest species, a recreational fishery (that in my view is not sustainable), and nearshore coastal pollution associated with runoff."
"Great location with high levels of biodiversity."